December 28, 2007

The Final Great Gift of the Baby Boomers

The satirical blogsite "23/6" has come out with a parody of AARP Magazine, as Generation X might modify it to reflect their true attitudes about this huge demographic bulge made up of Americans born between the years 1946 and 1964. It's very funny, standing on their heads all the well-worn tropes and delusions of this aging cohort, in whose number, admittedly, I myself dwell. Our narcissism; our Peter Pan delusions; our demand for attention. Laid out like a regular cover, there are "special sections," such as "Give It Up," with bullet points like "Stop Jogging." "Delete Your MySpace Page." And "60 Is Not the New 40: It's Old." "Sex: We Don't Want to Hear About It." It ends with a request that we simply die off and stop pestering everyone with our self-obsessions.

I was wondering when this generation would achieve enough life experience and wisdom to get around to looking at things this way. To tell the truth, I don't like my generation either. I like the "Greatest Generation" people, my parents' group. There was something so solid and real about them. They understood that life was inevitably hard work and travail leavened with a little joy. They did not treat every disappointment or down mood like a pathology. I like the generation born in the Thirties and early Forties, the ones who rebelled at encroaching materialism and gave us the Beat outlook, like Henry Miller and Bob Dylan. And today's kids, who recognize so well how we've trashed the place, clogged up the landscape with cars, and too-big houses, and devoured the world's open spaces and natural resources, and set in motion the cataclysm of global warming: I like their precocious world-weariness, their wry and ironic humor, even their patience with us, as we try to talk their lingo while wearing our oversized cargo shorts and texting on our Sidekick cell phones. They seem less inclined to spend their time "processing their emotions," or indulging in the fantasies of the "human potential movement." Sure, a lot of them have been spoiled by us, but they see through it: they know it's a bribe, the product of a guilty conscience. "Here, take all the shit we've cluttered our lives up with. We'd connect with you emotionally, but we don't know how."

That's where my generation went off the rails. It's how we became obsessive consumers alienated from one another and from the natural world we live in. We forgot the ancient cultural teaching that everything depends on human interconnectedness, that material comforts and success will do nothing without it, and that the essential attitude is not "self-assertiveness" but humility and reverence for Mother Earth.

So I think Gen X is right. And I suggest that, for once, we do something self-sacrificial to show we're sincere. I propose that we all die off. It needs to be mass suicide, of course. I do not want any painful reminders of Holocausts of the past. One other point on the AARP cover claimed "All Your Music Sucks." With that I don't agree. Taste in music is strictly a matter of cultural inculcation, and I liked our stuff. So a perfect venue for our mass die-off is a New Woodstock, a final Woodstock. Maybe in the middle of the country, near St. Louis. Every drug our generation devised can be available, to make the whole thing a little less terrifying. Those who want to be organ donors can exit that way (after all, we have a lot to atone for). The rest can enjoy the festival for a week before the Jonestown Moment.

Think of all we'll be accomplishing. An immediate reduction in American population by 80 million. The Social Security and Medicare crises: solved in a twinkling. The freeing up of vast tracts of affordable housing, which can be distributed to Generation X by the government, free of charge, as compensation for the Baby Boom inflation which made owning a house for Gen X a one-in-a-million shot. A solution to the problem of impeaching George W. Bush. But what, you say, of the tremendous loss of intellectual capital and productivity from this highly educated group? No, it's not that big a deal. They're mostly burn-outs at this point. The people born in the Thirties will still be around, and they're a helluva lot smarter than we are.

What remains is a solid waste management problem. I think I can figure some things out here, since I was educated in public schools before the Baby Boomers withdrew all the support for education in favor of buying Toyota Landcruisers and 12,000 square foot houses. Let's say, even in our SuperSizeMe era, where most of the Baby Boomers achieved their final playing weight with the aid of several thousand Double Whoppers with Extra Cheese and 48-oz. Pepsi barrels, that the average weight is 200 lbs., assuming a bloated weight of 250 lbs a man, 150 lbs for his pudgy little woman. So we've got total mass of 80 million x 200 lbs = 16 billion pounds. However, 70% of this mass is water (a little less in their case: I forgot to mention the Pre-KoolAid blood drive, where the donors will be encouraged to give and then give some more), which will evaporate out soon enough with decomposition. Some suggested uses: using the biomass to rebuild coral reefs destroyed by global warming. Incorporating the bulk in bricks for building the fence between Mexico and the United States (although it probably won't be necessary anymore). Repairing the levees in New Orleans. Organic compost. Rocketing the entire Baby Boomer generation in missiles aimed at the sun.

If we have the courage, for once, to take these necessary steps, we will be fondly remembered by those so glad to see us go. And really, we're not giving up much. The years left are the years of arthritic knees and bad backs which never relent, and occluding arteries, and cataracts and dental implants, hip replacements, diverticulitis, prostate cancer, all while trying to live up to our age group's demand for simulating the lifestyle of the young. And the epitaph written over our mass grave by a grateful Gen X: "Never have so many given so much to get the hell out of the way."

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